April 2006

Thank you for taking the time to read this e-mail newsletter to find out what's new here at the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Feel free to share with us any thoughts or ideas you may have on how we can better serve you as well. Enjoy this latest edition of the Cyber Star!

in this issue
  • A Note from Sheriff Judd
  • Now Playing at a Booking Facility Near You....
  • Move Over to Keep Law Enforcement Safe
  • PSCO and D/S Paul Leslie Mourn the Loss of Niko
  • COPS Deputies Catch Smiles on Spring Break
  • ATM Safety Tips

    Now Playing at a Booking Facility Near You....
    Book in video

    Residents who are booking their loved ones out of the Polk County Jail at the book-in facility in Bartow are now being kept well-informed and even entertained thanks to the installation of a Jail Booking Information video that plays continuously on a television posted there.

    In a continuing effort to keep the public informed and provide excellent customer service, the PCSO Video Production Unit created the video to help answer the numerous questions citizens have about the booking process. So far the video has met with rave reviews, meanwhile the booking clerks are free to expeditiously help their customers without having to stop and explain each step of the process to each new person.

    This measure is just step one of many future endeavors to use innovative technology to help keep you, the community, well informed!


    Move Over to Keep Law Enforcement Safe

    Florida State Statute 316.126, also known as the "Move Over Law", encompasses the rules of the road as they apply yielding to authorized emergency vehicles. In part, this law states that when a law enforcement member has a vehicle pulled off to the side of the road, anyone else driving on that road in the same direction must either: 1) Move over to the adjacent lane to give the officer more room, or 2) Slow down to 20 MPH less than the posted speed limit if an adjacent lane is not available.

    The reason for this law is common sense - to increase the safety of the officers putting their lives on the line every day for you. Tragically, deputies, officers, and troopers are killed on roadways every year due to being hit by vehicles traveling on the same road where they are trying to enforce the law. So please be vigilant and obey the rules of the road: remember - IT'S THE LAW!


    PSCO and D/S Paul Leslie Mourn the Loss of Niko
    Paul and Niko

    Deputy Sheriff Paul Leslie and his partner Niko may have had more apprehensions in their 4 years of working together than any other canine team at PCSO. Sadly, that legend came to an end on February 24, 2006, when Niko succombed to a rare disease of the spine.

    Niko and Paul were conducting a building search at Eaglebrooke in response to a burglary in progress call on Tuesday, Feb. 21st, when Niko suddenly collapsed. After being examined by a neurologist in Largo and by our vets here at the Lake Wales Veterinary Hospital, Niko was diagnosed with having FCE - Fibrocartilaginous Embolism - on his spine. (It is similar to when a human being has a stroke, except it affects dogs in their spines not their brains.) The disease left Niko paralyzed and having seizures, and during an examination at the Lake Wales Vet, he stopped breathing and was unable to be revived.

    Niko was a German Shepherd purchased from Budapest in 2001 at the young age of 14 months. He was nationally certified by NAPWDA (National Association of Police Working Dogs of America), and was a beloved and valuable partner to Paul, and pet to his family. He was 4 and a half years old when he passed away.


    COPS Deputies Catch Smiles on Spring Break

    The Northeast COPS Unit took 7 children on spring break to Tenoroc Fish Camp in Lakeland last month for some fishing and fun. The kids caught several bass and Deputy Sharon Rawson provided the bait (see bottom photo). The kids were also fed lunch by these dedicated deputies. Contact the COPS deputies in your area if you have similar ideas of how they can interact with the children in your community!


    ATM Safety Tips

    Automated teller machines can be found in a number of places these days, such as financial institutions, shopping malls, convenience stores and even free standing machines. When using an ATM be very aware of your surroundings and follow these safety tips:


    • At a drive-up ATM, keep all windows closed, except yours, and all doors locked.
    • Keep the vehicle running and be watchful of the vehicle’s front, rear and sides.
    • Stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings. Be alert for anything suspicious.
    • If someone approaches your vehicle on foot, cancel the transaction and leave immediately.
    • When using a walk-up ATM, stand directly in front of the keyboard, blocking the view of others.
    • When your transaction is complete, immediately take your card, receipt, and money, put them in your wallet or purse, and leave immediately.



    A Note from Sheriff Judd
    Identity theft is becoming more widespread not only in Polk County, but nationwide. In order for us to gain a better understanding of identity theft and fraud, and to educate our members in how to better investigate and help prevent these types of crimes, we created a task force specific to this growing problem.

    Last year we recognized the need to focus more resources on combatting identity theft and preventing it from occurring to people in our community. That's why we created the Identity Theft Strike Force. Our team of grant writers applied for and received a grant from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Office of Criminal Justice to identify, investigate, and arrest perpetrators of identity theft and fraud in the county. The grant made it possible for us to hire two data analysts and the computers and software they'd need to track identity theft-related crimes and spot trends.

    I then appointed one of my sergeants and four detectives to the strike force. Our goal is to increase the number of arrests and convictions of individuals responsible for identity theft/fraud, and to increase awareness by the public of the scope of identity theft and provide ways to avoid becoming a victim of this type of crime through public information and public programs. Since it is not unusual for identity criminals to cross jurisdictional lines, the task force will also coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and secure arrests.

    The strike force will also seek to penetrate the barriers presented by identity thieves – we will work proactively with other detectives to identify trends, develop profiles, secure evidence, cooperate with other jurisdictions, and aggressively pursue prosecution.

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    Do YOU Have a Smoke Alarm? During the third week of February, five people in our community, including a 2-year-old child, died in house fires on 3 separate occasions. I urge each and every one of you to please, please install smoke detectors in your homes. Smoke detectors are just one important safety measure you can take to ensure your family can safely evacuate your home in case of a fire. Certain agencies, such as the Mulberry Fire Department, are also giving away free smoke detectors, so check your local fire station for more information. And don't forget to check the batteries on your smoke alarms twice each year - the two days of Daylight Savings Time are a good time to do this.